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DAVID CASEY COPLEY

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DAVID CASEY COPLEY Obituary
COPLEY, DAVID CASEY David Casey Copley, loving son, generous friend and philanthropist, arts patron extraordinaire, died of a heart attack on November 20, 2012 behind the wheel of his emerald green Aston Martin. His final weekend was filled with the activities he cared about most: an event (for out-going San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders) outside the iconic, new downtown Central Library; the opening of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" at the La Jolla Playhouse and an executive committee meeting at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art which he chaired as board president. These were the happiest of days for the 60-year-old former newspaper heir. They were filled with time for his true passions in life -- the symphony, the opera, the theater, contemporary art, the decorative arts, movies, Hollywood, classic cars, sailing and entertaining his friends on his yacht "Happy Days II," at home at Foxhole and at Foxhill. Summers moored in Monaco. New Year's in St. Barts. Those on the receiving end knew him as an incredible, creative host. He loved planning a great party (delighting in the challenge of trying to outdo his last one) and then watching it unfold like a terrific evening of theater. Always the producer. Always the generous friend. "Being kind came naturally to David," observed close friend Judith Harris. "His joy in helping organizations was not the idea of the grand gesture, but all the people -- adults and children -- who would benefit from his gift. It was the establishment or continuity of classes, tours, lectures and jobs that resonated with him. He particularly loved helping animals who he felt needed a voice. After seeing a very injured kitten at the SD Humane Society, he said 'if he lives, I want him, because no one else will adopt him.' This was the heart of the man we loved." David's heart took center stage during the triumphs and turbulence of his last decade. In 2006, after months of failing health, he received a heart transplant at Sharp Hospital. In 2009, he made the tough decision to sell the Copley Press and his family's flagship newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune. Through those years, as David coped with inheriting a media empire and then visibly shed the burdens of responsibility that accompanied it, he really came into his own. The people whose lives and passions he touched will always remember... David, the music lover: "David's sweet, gentle manner touched me and many lives. His quiet generosity has had tremendous impact on arts organizations throughout the world, including our orchestra. By presenting our broadcast series and bringing live performances to thousands of people, David made music accessible to many, transforming them into music lovers. For that we will be forever grateful." Jahja Ling, music director, The San Diego Symphony. "David had a particular interest in the design aspects of opera. He loved watching all the elements come together. He's one of the underwriters for 'Murder in the Cathedral' this season, starring Ferruccio Furlanetto and I'm directing. The 'risk' of lesser-known works attracted him." Ian Campbell, director, The San Diego Opera. David, the animal lover, and owner of five very special rescue cats -- Maggie, Bing, Dennis, Patty and Maxine: Thanks to the philanthropy of David and his mother, the San Diego Humane Society is state of the art. "San Diego is a better place to have an animal, or to be one, because of David Copley." From a statement released by The San Diego Humane Society. "Both Helen and James Copley were dedicated zoo supporters and David continued that family tradition with his love for wildlife here and around the globe. He also enabled our Institute for Conservation Research to bring species back from the brink of extinction." Mark Stuart, president, the Foundation for San Diego Zoo Global. David, the art lover whose collection of works by installation artist Christo is considered world class: "David had a very good eye. He could have been a curator or a very successful interior designer. He had that ability to have very positive relations with creative people." Hugh Davies, the David C. Copley director and CEO, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. David, the theater lover, and proud owner of a 2010 Tony Award for best musical, as one of four producers of the La Jolla Playhouse's "Memphis, the Musical": "David was a delightful study in contrasts -- a shy bon-vivant with not only a passion for cutting edge art but also his beloved 'Days of Our Lives.' I will always remember his limitless generosity to the playhouse and to the larger San Diego arts scene, the loyalty he inspired from a fierce group of friends and a grin that lit up the room." Christopher Ashley, artistic director, the La Jolla Playhouse. "David believed in the power of theatre and its ability to transform lives and communities. A handful of people have the capacity and generosity to truly transform an institution. David Copley was one of those people. His love of arts shared with The Globe and other cultural institutions is not confined within the walls of a theatre or a museum, but radiates through our city." Michael Murphy, general manager, The Old Globe Theater. David, the costume design and film buff: "It is not a surprise that David's love of beauty, art and classic Hollywood movies found a home in motion picture costume design, which he understood as central to the art of filmmaking and storytelling. He had the most spectacular private collection of original 'Golden Age' costume design drawings in the world. David was a blessed benefactor who has provided my remarkable field with a home at UCLA and shifted the paradigm of film history, which will now include costume design. My husband John and I treasure our time with him." Costume designer Deborah Landis, founding director of the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design at the University of California - Los Angeles. David, a champion of literacy and libraries: "Were it not for the significant contribution of David, and others, the San Diego Central Library would have remained a vision instead of the reality it's become. His belief in the impact of libraries was fueled by his passion for literacy. In his quiet way David has made it possible for thousands of San Diegans to learn." Mel Katz, chairman of the San Diego Public Library Foundation board of trustees. David was the son of James S. and Helen K. Copley, a graduate of Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut (1970) and Menlo College with a B.A. degree in Business Administration (1975). He joined the board of directors of the Copley Press in 1975. Appointed president of the coporation in 1988, he began assuming day-to-day responsibilities for his family's newspapers in California and Illinois and became the fourth in his family to take the helm as chairman and CEO of the Copley Press, succeeding his mother as publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2001 as well. A private burial will take place tomorrow when he will be laid to rest beside his mother, followed by an invitation-only celebration of life to be held at The Salk Institute later this month. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested for The San Diego Humane Society and the San Diego Public Library Foundation. We -- your myriad family and friends -- will miss you, David. Greatly.

Published in U-T San Diego on Dec. 2, 2012
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